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Dr Michaela Frye

Stem cell homeostasis and disease


Laboratory Location:

Stem Cell Institute, Gleeson Building

Departmental Affiliation:

Department of Genetics


Michaela Frye completed her PhD in Frankfurt/Main in Germany in 2000, studying the role of epithelial defensins in Cystic Fibrosis. In 2001 she joined Fiona Watt’s lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the CR-UK London Research Institute where she developed her fascination for the question “how stem cells in the skin are regulated”.

Michaela received a CR-UK Career Development Fellowship in 2007 when she started as a group leader at the SCI. She renewed this fellowship in 2013 and is now a CR-UK Senior Fellow.


Cancer Research UK, European Research Council, Worldwide Cancer Research, Medical Research Council


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Labelling of hair follicle stem cells (green) in mouse tail skin. Blue: DNA staining; Red: Sebaceous Glands Credit: Iwona Driskell


Stem cells are established during development and remain present in adulthood allowing the body to replace, restore and regenerate dead, damaged or diseased cells. Stem cells continuously maintain their population (self-renewal) while generating progeny (differentiation). During self-renewal stem cells have to avoid cell cycle exit and differentiation; whereas during differentiation stem cells must evade uncontrolled proliferation. Dissecting the regulatory pathways controlling the balance between these two states is fundamental to understanding how stem cell mis-regulation causes human diseases and cancer.

While transcriptional regulation of stem cells is increasingly understood, virtually nothing is known about how post-transcriptional mechanisms can influence stem cell maintenance. Post-transcriptional modifications are commonly found in non-coding RNA species and our recent studies identified cytosine-5 methylation (m5C) of RNA as a novel mechanism regulating stem cell fate.

To dissect the cellular and molecular functions of cytosine-5 methylated RNA, we are using a combination of system-wide approaches, mouse models and in vitro differentiation assays. Our comprehensive approach will answer how post-transcriptional modification controls stem cell fate in normal tissues and how aberrant cytosine-5 methylation pathways can cause human diseases including cancer.

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Group Members

Roberto Bandiera

Sandra Blanco

Avazeh Ghanbarian

Nikoletta Gkatza

Feride Oeztuerk-Winder

Martyna Popis

Abdul Sajini

Tommaso Selmi

Plain English

Most tissues are maintained by stem cells throughout adult life. Stem cells are defined by their ability to continuously maintain their population (self-renewal) while generating differentiated progeny. During self-renewal, stem cells have to avoid cell cycle exit and differentiation; however, when differentiating they have to evade uncontrolled proliferation. How the balance between self-renewal and differentiation is regulated is not fully understood but yet highly relevant to a fundamental understanding of cell biology and human diseases. Aim of our research is to identify key factors regulating stem cell differentiation in adult tissues because important stem cell regulators are often mis-regulated in human diseases

Key Publications

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